February 9, 2006

The Continuum Continues: Broad Look at Barriers to Internet Access and Use Among American Adolescents

A November 2004 survey of parents and adolescents conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project data shows that 87% of American youth between the ages of 12 and 17 go online. A lower percentage of American adults use the internet—68% of those 18 and older go online. The often ignored flip-side of these data points is that 13% of teens do not use the internet, and another 32% of adults are similarly offline. This presentation explores the use and the non-use of the internet by American youth. We examine where young people access the internet—how many go online at home, at school, at work, at a friend’s or relative’s house, at a library or other public location? The presentation addresses degrees of access, reporting on the differences seen between daily internet users and those who go online infrequently–less than 1 to 2 times a week. We also explore the reasons that young people and adults give for not using the internet. Recent Pew Internet data from a May 2005 survey of adults suggests that the continuum metaphor of internet access first put forth by the Project in 2003 is still operative—17% of non-internet using adults and 47% of non-using teenagers said that they did at some point use the internet but have since stopped. Internet access is not a binary, “on/off” proposition, but is something that ebbs and flows over time. This fluidity also applies to frequency of internet use; 20% of online teens say they would like to go online more often than they do now, and more than a quarter of those young people cited difficulties with access as the reason they’re not online more often. Other non-users have the means of access, but lack the desire—15% of adult non-internet users live in wired homes where others go online, and 47% of offline youth say they’re not interested in going online.